By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
How’s your fat? Don’t worry—I’m not talking about your thighs or belly. I’m referring to the fat on your fork. You’ve heard about all the great things omega-3 fats can do for you, including boosting your mood, keeping your brain sharp and reducing your risk for heart disease. One reason for its stellar health creds: It fights chronic inflammation. But it can’t do its job if it’s outnumbered by its chief rival—omega-6 fats.
These two polyunsaturated fats compete for entry into your cells, and for most Americans, omega-6 is winning handily. Our bodies evolved to thrive off an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio anywhere from 1:1 to 4:1. Instead, the ratio is 16:1 or higher. That imbalance may literally be killing us.
Where does all the omega-6 come from? Soybean oil is a major source; processed and fast foods are rife with it, and it’s the oil in “vegetable oil” sold in the supermarket. Meanwhile, we eat very few omega-3 rich foods, like fatty fish, chia seeds and flaxseed.
Here’s how to get back in balance:
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Flaxseed is one of my very favorite foods, and ironically enough, one of my husband’s least favorite foods. I think he’s afraid of its nutritional superpowers. But for me, it’s one of the few foods I can’t do without and even travel with as it keeps me well, regular.
With flaxseed’s tremendously high fiber content it keeps my body running like a well oil machine when I’m incorporating it into my diet along with other healthy foods and plenty of water.
What is flaxseed? It’s estimated that flaxseed, much like chia seeds, have been cultivated for thousands of years, originating in Babylon. They’re a tiny little seed that comes from the flaxseed plant, which when in full bloom produces a beautiful, bright purple flower. Flaxseed can be consumed as a whole seed, milled seed, or extracted oil.
Health benefits: First and foremost, flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which promotes healthy digestion. But they are also high in omega-3 fatty acids – or ‘good fats’ – that contain phytoestrogens. These anti-inflammatory omega-3s have been shown to help boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clots, increase “good” HDL levels, lower triglyceride levels, and protect arteries from plaque buildup. Flaxseed also contains lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities, and also promote regular digestion and have been shown to help prevent breast cancer.
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